Thursday, December 14, 2017
Politics

Florida primary riddled with story lines, subplots

In today's statewide primary election, story lines and subplots abound.

Beyond the numbers and the winners and losers, here are five questions the primary results will answer:

A good night for Gaetz? Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, the next Senate president, is playing favorites and spending millions at a level not seen before in GOP Senate primaries, as he seeks to lock in his preferred line of succession to the presidency for six years. On Gaetz's must-win list are Aaron Bean in Jacksonville, Tom Lee in Hillsborough and Rep. John Legg, running in a new Pasco/Hillsborough Senate district.

Luck for Latvala? Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater, a Republican moderate who's battling to clinch his own Senate presidency in 2016, has a slate of must-win Senate candidates as well, led by Bean's opponent, Rep. Mike Weinstein, and Rep. Jim Frishe in a newly carved Pinellas/Hillsborough Senate district. (Latvala also backs Lee and Legg.)

A DLP dynasty? It would be highly unusual for three members of one family to be in the Legislature at the same time. Two Diaz de la Portilla brothers — DLP for short — are looking to make history as Alex and Renier, both former lawmakers, run for open House seats in Miami-Dade. A third brother, Miguel, has already been re-elected without opposition to the state Senate. "DLP Caucus" jokes can't be far away.

Mack's margin? Every poll shows U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV a heavy favorite to capture the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. The only suspense appears to be the size of his victory margin over three lesser-known and under-funded challengers. If Mack breaks 60 percent, he'll have some momentum. If he doesn't break 50, watch for Democrats to pounce.

Bound for Congress? Tuesday's election will, in effect, decide the outcomes of two heavily Republican congressional districts. In suburban Orlando, incumbent Reps. Sandy Adams and John Mica play musical chairs, with one relegated to retirement. And in Mack's old seat in Southwest Florida, six GOPers are in a free-for-all, including state House members Gary Aubuchon and Paige Kreegel, former local radio talk host Trey Radel and Chauncey Porter Goss, the son of Porter Goss, who used to represent the region in Congress.

• • •

Tampa Bay provides a neat laboratory in this expected low-turnout election, because of unresolved changes to the state election laws.

Pinellas, operating under the new law, had eight days of early voting, and Hillsborough, bound by the old law and awaiting preclearance required by the federal Voting Rights Act, had 14.

Sure enough, more than 10 times as many people voted early in Hillsborough (20,197) as in Pinellas (1,612).

But with Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark aggressively promoting absentee ballots with convenient dropoff sites, Pinellas has collected 88,314 absentees compared to Hillsborough's 33,309.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected]

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